Memory in the narrative works of Soledad Puértolas
The work of contemporary Spanish writer Soledad Puértolas (1947-) provides a unique glimpse of the psychological struggles of the individual in postmodern democratic European society. Puértolas’s realist style emphasizes storytelling and character portrayal, and her urban middle-class characters seek satisfying interactions with others and a sense of meaning in their own lives. Memory aids characters in their quest for meaning, and their use of memory reveals their self-perception and outlook on life. Memory works in different ways for different characters, and I propose four memory modes in Puértolas’s narratives: baggage, escapist, relational and amnesic modes. These distinct and sometimes contradictory memory modes represent approaches to the same problem: the individual’s search for purpose and identity in postmodern contemporary society. The baggage mode of memory, seen especially in Días del Arenal (1992) and Burdeos (1986), describes characters who reflect upon a painful self-defining memory from the past that affects their present mood and/or behavior. For some, this burden causes them to withdraw or to act irresponsibly; others are able to accept and overcome the scars of the past. When characters take an escapist approach to memory, as seen in Queda la noche (1989), their reminiscences are a place of mental retreat. Nostalgia is less a desire to return to an idyllic past than a restless dissatisfaction with the present. In the relational mode, a character reflects upon a specific relationship from the past, often with an extroverted foil whose presence highlights the protagonist’s introspective nature; examples are found in Una vida inesperada (1997) and La señora Berg (1998). Memory of this unusual relationship motivates the protagonist to mentally order his or her life through the life review process. Finally, in the amnesic mode, Puértolas departs from realism to varying degrees to experiment with different forms of amnesia, as in La rosa de plata (1999) and Si al atardecer llegara el mensajero (1995). Memory loss highlights the centrality of memory to personhood and identity, while at the same time it draws attention to the inadequacy of memory to explain the totality of existence.
School:The Ohio State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:memory nostalgia soledad puértolas
Date of Publication:01/01/2007